"Que" Gaskins '93 explains how he helped build an
"Que" Gaskins has demonstrated his marketing
prowess by working with basketball star Allen Iverson.
hair styled into corn rows, and his hip-hop-inspired wardrobe,
Henry "Que" Gaskins '93 doesn't exactly fit the
mold of the typical MBA grad. But it's that combination of
business savvy and street credibility that have earned the
marketing maven a reputation for understanding and predicting
the tastes of ethnically diverse young consumers.
is best known in marketing circles for his role in helping
Reebok sign -- and keep -- Philadelphia 76ers point guard
Allen Iverson to a $40 million endorsement deal in 1994.
"corporate minder," Gaskins spent six years making
sure Iverson stayed out of trouble and made good on his end
of the deal. Gaskins describes the deal as a gamble -- Iverson
wasn't anyone's idea of a media darling. No one was sure that
the then-second-year Georgetown Hoya would be the first draft
pick. Add to that Iverson's much publicized run-ins with the
law and surly off-court reputation, and signing the rising
star seemed risky at best.
Gaskins knew the rookie's edgy persona was eminently bankable.
So he approached the situation like a portfolio manager. "We
needed to have somebody managing that investment on a daily
basis so that we could capitalize on the opportunities,"
when you gave a guy a sneaker deal, you sent him a lot of
product, cut him a check, and that was the extent of your
relationship,"says Gaskins. "One of the things Kellogg
taught me was teamwork and the value of relationships. I wanted
to make sure we became a part of Allen Iverson's life."
end, Gaskins relocated to Philadelphia, where for six years,
he was Iverson's constant companion, acting both as a confidant,
adviser and friend. Because of his commitment, the relationship
remains today. Gaskins left Reebok in 2000 because he felt
the company's marketing strategy had lost its edge and was
relying on market research that catered to demographic stereotypes.
Failing to realize that their products had an appeal that
crossed race and income lines, Reebok continued marketing
mostly toward young African-American consumers. Consequently,
sales started to slip.
the need for an ad agency that was committed to understanding
the changing tastes of young adults with broader cultural
horizons, he and three colleagues formed the ad*itive, an
ad shop with an approach Gaskins calls "fusionism."
don't fit into boxes," Gaskins says. "Nine out of
10 times, when people hear the word urban, they think it's
a black consumer. But you have African-Americans who are interested
in Asian culture and Italian designers. And Caucasian kids
are consuming rap music at a higher rate than African-American
of Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, the ad*itive helps Arnold's
clients better understand the hip-hop culture and marketplace.
Current clients include American Legacy and Choice Hotels.
new venture, Gaskins plans to take the lessons learned during
his Reebok stint and combine them with intense scrutiny of
young adults' buying habits to better target consumers in
a global marketplace where diversity and multiculturalism
mean greater opportunity.
you're using traditional demographics to understand people,"
says Gaskins, "you're going to be missing the point."